The Tar Heels offense likely belongs to Caitlyn Wurzburger now.

Early 2023 Rankings: Nos. 5-1 (Division I Women)

The summer of lacrosse will soon make way for fall ball, and thus the dawn of the next NCAA women’s lacrosse season is here.

As we here at USA Lacrosse Magazine do every year, we’re taking a crack at ranking the Top 25 programs in the country before the fall exhibition season begins. Check back each day this week as we break down another five-team segment, ending with Nos. 5-1 on Friday.

Also considered (alphabetical): Arizona State, Army, Drexel, Navy, Temple

Early 2023 Rankings

Division I Men
No. 25 - No. 21
No. 20 - No. 16
No. 15 - No. 11
No. 10 - No. 6
No. 5 - No. 1
Division I Women
No. 25 - No. 21
No. 20 - No. 16
No. 15 - No. 11
No. 10 - No. 6
No. 5 - No. 1

"The Heels must be rebuilding, right? Probably not."


2022 record: 16-3 (6-0 America East)

Last seen: The Seawolves shrugged off a postseason ban from now-former conference America East, received an at-large bid and topped Drexel and Rutgers in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. In the quarterfinals, Stony Brook led eventual champion North Carolina by one at halftime but fell 8-5.

Initial forecast: After dominating the America East — the Seawolves last lost a conference game in 2014 — Stony Brook essentially replaces James Madison as the most prominent name in the CAA. But the Seawolves have bigger aspirations than a conference crown after close calls against UNC in back-to-back quarterfinals. The team enters 2023 with its offense largely intact from last season. The top three leading scorers return in Ellie Masera (67 goals, 20 assists, 100 draw controls), Kailyn Hart (64 goals, 14 assists) and Jaden Hampel (21 goals, 21 assists, 22 draw controls). Masera didn’t rest on her laurels this summer — she was part of the silver-medal team in the Sixes discipline at The World Games. Her return will likely negate the graduation of two-way midfielder Siobhan Rafferty (32 goals, 19 caused turnovers, 35 ground balls). Attacker Jolie Creo from Holy Cross, who led the Patriot League and was sixth nationally in points per game (5.47), is joining the fold, too. Charlotte Verhulst, who was second on the team with 63 draws, is also back. The biggest question is in net. Charlie Campbell (7.22 GAA, .494 save percentage), who anchored a Seawolves unit that led the nation in scoring defense (6.63), has graduated. Kameron Halsall started in 2021, played in 11 games in 2022 and is eligible for a fifth year in 2023. Redshirt freshman Aaliyah Jones did not play last year. Whoever is in net will have a lockdown defense playing in front of her. Haley Dillon, who led the team with 50 caused turnovers, is staying on Long Island for a fifth year, and Clare Levy (19 caused turnovers) continues to provide a physical and vocal spark. Midfielder/defender Jaidyn Donley, an Under Armour All-American, will also suit up for her freshman year.


2022 record: 19-4 (6-2 ACC)

Last seen: Boston College played in its fifth straight NCAA championship game but fell for the fourth time in a 12-11 loss to UNC.  

Initial forecast: Let’s start by stating the obvious: There will be a gaping hole in the BC offense in 2023. Charlotte North turned her tassel and moved onto the pros after breaking the NCAA’s all-time scoring mark and leading Boston College to a national title in 2021 and runner-up finish in 2022. But the Eagles have plenty of talent returning from last year’s team. The only other departure from the offense is Caitlynn Mossman (38 goals, 30 assists), who will not take a fifth year at BC. But Jenn Medjid may be coming off the quietest 102-point, 74-goal season ever. She’ll likely grab more headlines — and opponents’ top defenders — when she returns for year five in 2022. Belle Smith (55 goals, 28 assists, 24 caused turnovers, 21 ground balls), who won a silver medal in Sixes with Team USA, is also back. Kayla Martello (46 goals), Cassidy Weeks (40 goals, 10 assists) and Mckenna Davis (19 goals, 12 assists) round out the list of top offensive returners. Courtney Weeks, who tallied 28 goals and started all 21 games in 2021, will be another option in the midfield after being sidelined in 2022. Rachel Hall (10.63 GAA, .347 save percentage) has committed to a fifth season, as has defender Melanie Welch (14 caused turnovers, 23 ground balls). Sydney Scales (26 caused turnovers) and Hunter Roman (34 caused turnovers) will be juniors on defense. Defensive midfielder Hollie Schleicher (108 draw controls, 21 caused turnovers, 33 ground balls) is poised to become the Eagles’ biggest weapon on the circle.


2022 record: 16-5 (5-1 Big Ten)

Last seen: The Wildcats appeared bound for the championship game when Lauren Gilbert scored to put them up 14-7 with 10:15 left against UNC. But the Tar Heels scored the game’s final eight goals in one of the most improbable comebacks in tournament history and won 15-14.

Initial forecast: Izzy Scane, who scored 98 goals and was a Tewaaraton finalist in 2021, watched all of 2022 from the sidelines with a torn ACL. She’ll be back in 2023, and it’ll provide a boost to a Northwestern offense playing without two of its top three scorers from last season in Lauren Gilbert (79 goals, 27 assists, 55 draw controls) and Jill Girardi (45 goals, 37 assists, 183 draw controls). Brennan Dwyer (24 goals, 38 draw controls) also graduated. Erin Coykendall (45 goals, 37 assists) will likely be Scane’s wingwoman, and rising junior Leah Holmes (16 goals, 10 assists) could play a more prominent role. Defender Ally Palmero (24 caused turnovers, 37 ground balls) has used up her eligibility, and it’s unclear if Allie Berkery (19 caused turnovers, 21 assists) will use a fifth year at Northwestern. The same can be said for Madison Doucette (11.47 GAA, .422 save percentage). Rising sophomore Samantha White (45 draw controls, 12 caused turnovers, 36 ground balls) is back after a promising rookie year on defense.


Hollie Schleicher is now the No. 1 option on the draw for Boston College.


2022 record: 19-2 (6-0 Big Ten)

Last seen: Maryland made it back to the Final Four after a rare miss in 2021 but fell to Boston College 17-16.

Initial forecast: Maryland’s defense, which finished second nationally in scoring defense (7.81), gets a big add in former Princeton standout Marge Donovan, who set a Tigers record with 112 draw controls and caused 32 turnovers in 2022. It is unclear if defender Abby Bosco (63 ground balls, 26 caused turnovers) will return for a final season. Maddie Sanchez (15 caused turnovers, 29 ground balls) is taking a fifth year, and rising junior Aiden Peduzzi (15 caused turnovers, 21 ground balls) is also back on defense. Reigning IWLCA Goalie of the Year Emily Sterling, who ranked second nationally with a .531 save percentage, returns. With Emily Lamparter off to Clemson and Maddie McSally graduating, Cathy Reese reeled in former Florida goalie Julia Hammerschlag, a Baltimore native and McDonogh alum who played in 15 games and didn’t allow a goal in 2022. She’ll likely back up Sterling. Offensively, Tewaaraton finalist and leading scorer Aurora Cordingley (67 goals, 51 assists), a Johns Hopkins player who spent her fifth year with the Terps, is gone. But Libby May (64 goals, 14 assists), Hannah Leubecker (62 goals, nine assists) and Eloise Clevenger (32 goals, 31 assists) are back. Grace Grace Griffin (28 goals, 18 caused turnovers, 25 ground balls) is one of the few starters definitely not returning. She’s playing in Athletes Unlimited.


2022 record: 22-0 (8-0 ACC)

Last seen: Celebrating its first NCAA title since 2016 in front of a sold-out crowd at Homewood field.

Initial forecast: UNC ran the table in 2022, breaking a streak of semifinal losses and downing Boston College for the third time in one season, 12-11. It was a storybook send-off for fifth-year players Jamie Ortega (69 goals, 44 assists), Scottie Rose Growney (56 goals, 20 assists), Ally Mastroianni (48 goals, 136 draw controls), Emma Trenchard (12 caused turnovers, 23 ground balls) and Taylor Moreno (8.56 GAA, .491 save percentage). Andie Aldave (51 goals, 12 assists) and unlikely NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player Sam Geiersbach (37 goals, 27 assists) have also graduated. With that kind of star power, the ‘Heels must be rebuilding, right? Probably not. UNC boasted the deepest lineup in the nation last year, and it has plenty of stars returning. It’s safe to say it’s Caitlyn Wurzburger’s (34 goals, 42 assists) offense now. The rising junior, who came to campus widely considered the nation’s top recruit after a legendary career at American Heritage-Delray, has been a key cog on the attack over the last two years, Ortega, Katie Hoeg and Mastroianni stole headlines. That should end in 2023. Wurzburger got her fill of high-level competition as a silver medalist for Team USA in Sixes at The World Games. Lauren Figura, who led Saint Joseph’s to an A-10 title with a 72-goal campaign, has transferred to Chapel Hill for her graduate season. Olivia Dirks, a Penn State transfer who tallied 20 goals and 36 draws in her first season with the Tar Heels, will likely play a more prominent role in 2023. Emily Nalls (58 draw controls, 22 caused turnovers, 49 ground balls) and Brooklyn Walker-Welch (19 caused turnovers, 18 ground balls) also return to a Carolina defense that ranked sixth nationally in team GAA (8.50). Both earned medals this summer. Nalls took bronze with England at the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship. Walker-Welch was part of Team Canada at the World Championship (silver) and Sixes at The World Games (gold). Rising sophomore Alecia Nicholas (6.46 GAA, .450 save percentage), who briefly subbed in for Moreno in the NCAA semifinals, is the likely favorite to take over for Moreno if the ‘Heels keep that role in-house.